From education to employment

Apprenticeship awards recognise Tees Valley’s top talent

AN ENGINEERING bright spark, a social media-savvy student and a single parent who returned to education were among a wave of talented Tees Valley apprentices recognised in a prestigious awards ceremony at Rockcliffe Hall.  

Northern Skills, the apprenticeship and training arm of Middlesbrough College Group, hosted its annual awards to celebrate the outstanding progress made by apprentices – and the commitment to skills and training from forward-thinking employers across the region. 

23-year-old Jordan Laverick won ‘Engineering Apprentice of The Year’ for his work with Stockton-headquartered Heap & Partners.  The technical support worker first enrolled at Middlesbrough College in 2015 and was praised by tutors as well as his employer for his commitment to learning and development.

Other winners included single mum Sophie Appleby, who took home the title ‘Children, Young People and Families Apprentice of the Year’.  The 26-year-old was praised for her commitment to achieving positive outcomes for children and young people in residential care.

Sophie, from Redcar, started her apprenticeship as a support worker and now works full time for Middlesbrough Council as well as completing a Diploma and Standard in Management.

And scooping the ‘Overall Apprentice of The Year’ award on the evening was Kaitlyn Sedgewick, business admin apprentice at critical power specialists Durata.

The 18-year-old from Thornaby was initially disappointed to lose out on the ‘Business Apprentice of the Year’ award, not realising she’d be taking away the evening’s top prize.

“I was gobsmacked – I didn’t even consider that I’d be up for the Overall Apprentice of the Year award,” she said.

“When they started to describe the winner, and everything they’d been through, it began to sink in, and I couldn’t believe that they were talking about me.

“I was at a different College and the apprenticeship didn’t work out – the employer didn’t invest any time into my learning and the business eventually closed. I was left with no job, and little support or advice on my options.  

“I enrolled at Middlesbrough College, and I’ve never looked back. I absolutely love my apprenticeship and I’ve learnt so much. From where I was aged 16, to where I am now, I’ve just grown so much and I’m so proud of everything I’ve achieved already.”

Upon completion of her apprenticeship in December, Kaitlyn will move into a full-time role in Durata’s sales and marketing team.  

John McGee, managing director at Durata, said:

“I had a world class apprenticeship when I first started in the industry, and I always wanted to emulate that after starting my own business.

“From technical apprenticeships right through to admin, sales and marketing, we’re teaching apprentices our values, our work ethics and our standards right from the start.

“Kaitlyn is a shining example of someone who is eager to learn, full of energy and ideas and has integrated herself into the business. She’s a breath of fresh air and has amazed us with her progress – from joining as a young, shy student to the confident, hard-working colleague she is today.

“She’s already proven herself to be a real asset to the company and we can’t wait to watch her progress in her career with us.”

Employers were also recognised at the awards for their role in delivering apprenticeships.

Middlesbrough-based Wander Films was named SME Business of the Year while engineering firm Intelect, also headquartered in Middlesbrough, picked up the ‘Medium Business of the Year’ award – both praised for their commitment to developing the next generation

Sembcorp Energy UK, headquartered at Wilton International in Middlesbrough, took home the coveted ‘Large Business of The Year’ title, having worked with Northern Skills for almost two decades to future-proof its workforce.

The energy giant is a leading provider of sustainable solutions supporting the UK’s transition to Net Zero and recently took on 14 apprentices across finance, IT, labs, maintenance, operations and HR – its biggest intake to date.

Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College, said:

“The awards are a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the impact apprenticeships have on our region’s prosperity – and recognise those who help make them a success.

“That includes our staff and local employers who make it all possible. Looking around and seeing them smile with pride as their apprentices pick up their awards makes the occasion even more special.

“Apprenticeships give people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to get into new careers and I’m delighted to hear so many success stories from the apprentices and employers we work with.”

Guest speaker and former Middlesbrough College student Claire Preston spoke about the significant impact the College made on her career and life – although joked she didn’t win any awards while she was there.  

Northern Skills apprenticeship programmes are carried out in the workplace, meaning learners get proper hands-on experience, alongside their time in the specialist industry-leading training facilities at Middlesbrough College.

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